$5,000: Price of Smelling Nice

New perfume is put to the test of critics, scientists and you, on the street.

ByABC News via logo
October 5, 2007, 2:11 PM

Oct. 13, 2007 — -- Americans love to smell good.

In fact, perfume is a $6-billion-a-year industry in the United States alone. And now there's a new perfume that sells for $5,000 per bottle.

A perfume so expensive warranted a sniff-off, and an official lab test to match. Is there a difference between the pricey perfume and the drugstore brand? Or is it all in the packaging?

There are classic perfumes, celebrity eau du toilets, day scents and date-night essences.

Now, Mane, the company that developed many of those famous fragrances for other brands, is introducing the first perfume under its own name.

It's called Yu, which means rain in Chinese. And it can be yours for just $5,000 at the high-end department store Bergdorf Goodman.

The perfumer who developed Yu told us how she came up with the smell.

"It's really the idea of the perfumer trying to put together the ingredients to tell a story in a very harmonious way," Mane Perfumery's Cecile Krakower said. "The great thing about Yu is that I really had the luxury of time to handpick, or should I say nose pick, every ingredient for its various quality."

It is a scent that won over The New York Times' resident perfume critic, Chandler Burr.

"It's actually very interesting, aesthetically gorgeous," Burr said as he spritzed the scent. "You can smell the money in it. It's almost a fresh quality, like using a very good toothpaste."

While he is impressed with the product, he said the price might not reflect the quality of the product.

Burr said, "$5,000 is marketing, just increases the marketing campaign."

But there's more to the perfume industry than the money behind it. It's an art and a science, so the next logical step was the lab. Is there a difference between a $5,000 bottle of perfume and the drugstore special for $12.99?

Larry Nielsen of Microanalytics Laboratories tested the two bottles to see whether any difference could be detected.

"We could categorize the yellow one as being richer, has a wider variety of components in it, some spices, some animal-type odors in it, and the pink one it's just not as rich," Nielsen said.